Shakin' Street: Daltrey Sings Townshend, 1994

I heard about the place where all the kids go

Shakin' Street: Daltrey Sings Townshend, 1994

Welcome to a new feature here at jukeboxgraduate, what I’m calling Shakin’ Street.

I have many boxes of ancient ticket stubs and I love pulling them out at random and showing them to friends and talking about what I remember from each show.

I am going to do the research and fact-checking as I write these because if I have to go off and research them in advance this project will never see the light of day because I will get lost in a research rabbit hole, but this also means I may get some facts wrong. Corrections welcomed.

DALTREY SINGS TOWNSHEND | February 23 & 24, 1994 | Carnegie Hall

In early 1994, Roger Daltrey announced that, for his 50th birthday, he was going to be performing two concerts at Carnegie Hall, titled “Daltrey Sings Townshend.” Yes, we made jokes: “Gosh, Rog, we thought you were going to be singing the songs of Barry Manilow.” But we -- by “we” I mean the Who faithful -- also knew exactly what he meant. Roger takes the responsibility of singing Pete’s songs very seriously, and there are a lot of Who songs Pete would not sing / wrote for Roger -- and by that I don’t mean him personally or his vocal range, but the ability of Roger Daltrey to present the work of Pete Townshend on stage and on record. (I once had an open-and-shut argument with someone I was just sort of starting to get to know where he confessed he did not like Roger’s voice although he liked Pete’s songwriting well enough and my response was, “That’s great but you’re not hearing those songs without Roger.” 1-0.) 1

I had just returned to the States at the end of December 1993 (after having been gone since 1988) and the day these tickets went on sale, I was at a job interview, after which I scurried down 57th Street in job-interview shoes and clothes which were not ideal for standing in a lengthy ticket queue outside in January. The ticket sale was a mess -- there’s an article that states it was the fastest-selling show in Carnegie Hall history but I need to fact check that given what other rock and roll shows have been at Carnegie Hall. But if it did sell quickly, it is because the tickets were purchased by scalpers, because I did not get a ticket and neither did anyone else I know. Roger or his people heard about this, and arranged to make tickets available to fans via a friend I used to work with on a Who fanzine. This was how I ended up in the second row on night two (footnote and you can see me in the DVD footage to the point that it is honestly embarrassing) -- I could have sat there night one but I instead sat in the balcony and let someone who could only go the first night have that prime location. I believe cost was also a factor in that this was a benefit and the tickets were not free; the balcony seat, as you can see above, was $75 in 1994 money. I was honestly just thrilled to be there given that I had not seen them since the First Farewell Tour in 1982.

The special guests for this event were, on the outside, odd. Lou Reed, Sinead O’Connor, Alice Cooper, the Spin Doctors, Linda Perry (back when 4-Non Blondes were the flavor of the day). The Spin Doctors (who I do not remember, at all) performed “I Can’t Explain” and “Substitute.” Alice did “I’m A Boy” and while I remember he was there, I do not recall his performance. Linda Perry did both “Acid Queen” (which I quite liked) and “Dr Jimmy” (which I did not. Quadrophenia is hard! It’s just hard!) Roger had the Chieftains accompany him for things like “Baba O’Riley” and “After the Fire” (from his solo album); Sinead was invited onstage and, guess what, was booed. Lou, god bless him, decided to do a reworked version of a song from Pete’s Psychoderelict, which no one in that audience had bought, or if they had, had not listened to. (There was a lot of whispering “It’s from PsychoD” down the rows of fans sitting in the second and third row center.) Unsurprisingly, he also brought Sinead out onstage with him. I appreciated that. John Entwistle did not bring anything from Whistle Rhymes or Mad Dog but just backed up Roger. The orchestral numbers were fine and while I have respect for the Chieftains this was not a combination that worked well at all.

What I don’t remember, but see in the press coverage, is that everyone was apparently carrying the delusion that this was going to be a Who reunion, and that remains strange to me because we had already been through that, and they had just toured in ‘89! Like, no one I was with was there because we thought it was going to happen, it was just a cool show in a small venue. But! Pete did not want to be there, he did not want to do it, which is why Roger called it “Daltrey Sings Townshend” so he would feel like he had to. It is exactly the kind of emotional blackmail that characterized/s their relationship so it was incredibly fitting that Rog pulled that off. But it is why Roger was ranting to Neil Strauss in Rolling Stone:

Shaking his full head of curly blond tresses in disbelief, Daltrey complains about Townshend to orchestra conductor Michael Kamen: “What do you mean he’s decided to perform ‘The Shout’? I don’t even know that song. I just think that to do something that obscure at that point in the show is suicide.”

Also on the bill was Mr. Eddie Vedder. In 1994, this was quite a coup for this show, but the extent of Ed’s Who fandom was not yet apparent to the Who diehards and most people there did not give a fuck. Eddie was nervous as hell, performed in the dimmest spotlight possible, and spent the encore the first night wandering around behind the orchestra risers, which I could see because I was upstairs in row A of the literal cheap seats. I brought a disposable camera, and while my photos of Roger sort of came out, my photos of Eddie did not. It’s kind of sweet to think about it now, if you’ve seen that DVD of the Who’s Teenage Cancer Trust performance at the Royal Albert Hall (or even if you haven’t, and I recommend you do), there’s footage of Eddie and Roger sitting and talking and Roger asks him what song he wants to sing and Eddie gets all “I could sing any of these” and Roger replies, “Eddie, stop being polite, just tell me what. song. you. want. to. do.” I love this for him.

As someone who was a member of both camps (and who took endless amounts of shit for it on both sides) I was always delighted to see this happen. Ed did “The Kids Are Alright” and “My Generation,” neither of which were giant surprises, but what had me rooting for him as quietly but enthusiastically as possible was “Sheraton Gibson,” one of my favorite Pete solo songs. (He also famously trashed his dressing room, which I didn’t like then and don’t like now because all he did was make work for the people who had to clean it up.) He also sang “Squeezebox” when some jabroni in the crowd yelled for it.

“Call your cable provider now!”

I don’t remember Roger’s voice being iffy (according to some of the reviews, it was), and if it was, it was nothing compared to how it is now, when we all collectively hold our breath hoping he’s going to hit the note. At that point he had not yet made any permanent changes to octave or arrangement. He was also wearing a tuxedo without a shirt, and we were close enough that I could see the appendix scars. (“I don’t look that good now,” said a dude in our row who was in his late 20’s.) I know I brought roses the second night and actually got up and handed them to Roger who apparently thanked me from the stage which I did not hear but you could see on the original broadcast. The original was on pay-per-view for $24.95 and then later made the PBS pledge drive rebroadcast rounds, my parents would always watch until the first sighting of me, they would call and tell me they saw me. It was always kind of sweet.

I do not recommend that you track any part of this show down for any reason, but if you are a glutton for punishment:

  1. Dylan gets it very right in his recent book when he says, “Pete can’t even point the finger himself, he depends on mouthpiece Roger to hurl the invective” while discussing “My Generation.”